Unlike Mason, the character Ellar Coltrane plays in BOYHOOD, Coltrane has never sat in a real classroom. His parents homeschooled him, and saw in him a desire to act. Now 19 years old, and living in Austin, Coltrane talks about what it was like to spend 12 crucial years acting and growing up in front of the camera.
What was it like watching yourself as a child?
It's incredibly bizarre. One of the strangest parts of watching the movie is watching the early years that I don't even remember and recognizing myself in that 6-year-old. You don't get that in a picture, you don't get that in a baby book. It's different.
What was your acting experience before BOYHOOD?
I had done some commercials and a film called LONE STAR STATE OF MIND , which was produced in and around Austin.
In the first scene of BOYOOD, Mason's mom remarks on his first grade teacher's comments about him. Were you an indifferent student like Mason?
One of the biggest parts of Mason's life that is pretty different from my own is that I never really went to school as a child. I was homeschooled, and really unschooled in a lot of ways.
Who was your primary teacher, your mom or your dad?
Both of them. I'm Iike Mason in that my parents are divorced, although they didn't get divorced until I was 10. My education was much more experiential than academic, which I think is good.
Did you take acting classes?
I did a lot of theater stage acting when I was young, and I took a handful of classes at the Zachary Scott Theatre Center, here in Austin, and some private lessons with an acting coach. But I wouldn't say that acting was ever my primary focus growing up.
When did you see the finished film for the first time?
Rick Linklater's advice was ‘Watch it alone, and watch it three times in a row, and then call me.' They brought me a Blu-ray, and I was able to watch it a few times alone at home before I went to any festivals. It was unimaginable. It's incredibly surreal, I suppose. It's a bit like being covered in jellyfish — incredible, emotionally very cathartic. I mean, now watching it, it doesn't have quite as strong of an emotional effect, but the first three or four times I watched the film, I was more or less catatonic for like an hour afterward.